The latest physical distancing measures can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website. As a result of these measures, a number of restrictions are now in place on the range of venues and activities that businesses may operate.
For those businesses that are still able to trade, you must still implement appropriate controls to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
What you can do to manage the risk will depend on your workplace and the work that you do. However, three key things you can do are to:
- maintain good hygiene and cleanliness of the workplace
- implement physical distancing – keeping everyone at the workplace physically apart, and
- use protective personal equipment (PPE) appropriately.
There might be other controls that would minimise the risk of infection, such as delaying non-essential tasks. There is no one size fits all approach.
The important thing is that you:
- actively consider the context of your business, that is, the workplace, the work carried out there, your workers and others who come into the workplace, and
- do what you reasonably can to eliminate or minimise the risk of the people at your workplace contracting COVID-19.
What do employers need to do to ensure good hygiene?
Your workers must practice good hygiene, including:
- frequent hand washing or hand sanitising
- limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands, and
- covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing with a clean tissue or their elbow.
Encourage good hand hygiene by everyone at the workplace by:
- providing access to hand hygiene stations on entry and exit, and
- encouraging them to only touch what they intend to purchase
If you can, put signs around your workplace to remind your workers and others how and when to wash their hands.
What facilities and supplies do employers need to provide?
You must also provide a work environment that is without risk to health and safety. This includes:
- providing access to facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper, and
- making sure these are kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.
If those supplies are not available, under the model WHS laws, you will not be required to provide them. For example, if there are no supplies of masks in Australia, an employer cannot be required to provide a mask. In those circumstances, consider what alternative measures or approaches can be taken to eliminate or minimise risk.
If you can’t get necessary supplies to provide a work environment that is without risks, consider whether your workers should work elsewhere, such as at home, if this is possible.
What should employers do to keep the workplace clean?
You should already have in place regular, scheduled cleaning of your workplace. Ensure any areas frequented by workers or others (e.g. visitors to your premises) are cleaned daily.
Frequently touched areas and surfaces should be cleaned several times a day. This includes eftpos equipment, elevator buttons, handrails, tables, counter tops, door knobs, and sinks.
Protect workers, clients, customers and others by disinfecting all surfaces that are exposed to respiratory droplets, for example after someone has coughed. Make sure you use an appropriate disinfectant solution.
When cleaning, workers should minimise the risk of being infected with COVID-19 by wearing gloves and washing their hands thoroughly or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves.
If a worker has been exposed to COVID-19 at the workplace, you will need to deep clean areas where the worker has been.
How does physical distancing apply at the workplace?
To slow the spread of the virus, all employers must implement appropriate physical distancing in accordance with state and territory laws, as far as is reasonably practicable.
Physical distancing means keeping the required distance apart. At the moment it is staying at least 1.5 metres away from others.
Depending on your workplace, it may not always be possible to stay the required distance apart. Where this is the case, you should think of whether there are other things you can do to help minimise the transmission of the virus. For example:
- for rideshare, passengers should be required to sit in the rear seat of a vehicle
- have contactless deliveries, that is, leave deliveries outside homes without needing to sign, and
- encourage customers to use contactless payment options.
You should also limit access to the workplace by people who do not need to be there. This includes children and other relatives of your workers. For further information on physical distancing see the Australian Government Department of Health for more information.